Our final few weeks, including a full moon.
03.09.2011 - 16.09.2011 30 °C
And so to our final blog entry on our round the world trip. It makes me a little sad to write this but we've had a ball and can't be anything less than chuffed about getting the chance to do it.
Where were we? Oh yea, Phi Phi.
The ferry we got to Koh Phi Phi was a bit shabby and the weather was horrendous. We actually couldn't see 10ft from the boat at one stage, it was beginning to turn into another transport nightmare but luckily we arrived there shortly after we entered the worst of the weather. That day was a bit of a wash-out thanks to my still not-right back and the horrible weather but initial impressions of Phi Phi were 100 times better than Patong.
The next day we were up and ready for sun. My back felt much better and we decided to start the day with a jog/hike up to the view point. Yes, I know – exercise besides trekking – shocking! Unfortunately our great endeavour was cut short when Stuart took a turn for the worse. We made it to the first viewpoint, but there's actually 3. We ended up having to go home. Shortly after we went to get some food in case it was that he hadn't eaten enough, he nearly passed out so it was bed for him for the rest of the day – ironically the first day the sun had shone since we got to the islands. Thankfully there were some English language channels on to keep us entertained.
The following day Stu was back in better fettle, a 24 hour bug we believe or potentially a dodgy mussel in his spaghetti the night before. We headed for the beach at long last. There we spent the day happily chatting to people and reading whilst soaking up the rays. That night we hit the town and had some lovely food at Paddy's restaurant before going to the Irish bar which is a bit yucky. There we bumped into Bram and Taryn that had been on our trekking expedition in Chiang Mai. We all headed off to see some Muay Thai (or Thai boxing to you and me). This place was gas, a huge, barn-like bar with a ring in the middle. They advertise free buckets(alcohol) for foreigners willing to fight. And there was quite a few surprisingly. Some of the fights weren't bad but one particular one with two girls, who were mates, was rubbish. When the professionals got in the ring it was a different story though, they kicked each other black and blue and up and down. We maybe saw about 5 fights before hitting the road, the good thing about this place is it's free in; the bad is the drinks are REALLY expensive so watch out.
Thanks to a mini hangover I didn't get up 'til silly o'clock the next morning, much to Stuart's frustration. When I did surface we took a cruise to get lunch, the beach was out of the question thanks to some sunburn for both of us from the day before. We went out and booked a trip for the next day and arranged to stay a couple more nights as we were falling in lurve with Phi Phi.
An attempt to conquer the viewpoint scramble again was made the following morning. To much more success this time and it was well worth it for the beautiful scenery. We got some okay pics but lament the fact we don't have a better camera, particularly in these settings. A big tip for anyone thinking on setting out – go wild and get the big expensive camera, you'll never get a chance to get those pics again most likely!
Later that day we boarded our Sunset Tour – The Original – we had many stops on our journey that day, the first was Monkey Island. Although, it's actually not an island, it's just out on the peninsula. Here we were with about 80 other people ogling these monkeys on about 30 square ft of land. They were cute and cheeky but I thought, if the rest of the day is gonna be like this we might as well be sat back on the busy beach. However, thankfully it wasn't. Next stop was the Viking Cave where 150 years ago some Chinese sailors had held up during a monsoon, they painted some interesting pictures on the walls in there and whilst you used to be able to enter it now it's the reserve of nest hunters due to too many tourists going there and causing damage.
The nest hunters must be crazy; if you were to see the scaffolding and the ropes they use to climb around in these caves and on the faces of the cliffs. They are searching for swallow's nests. In China they are cooked in Bird's Nest soup which you may have heard before. They believe it keeps you youthful. You can actually buy drinks here in local shops which have birds next in the them, a bit yucky if you ask me. These guys earn a fortune doing this, about 100,000 baht per kilo or £2000 – a heck of a lot of money out here. About 6 or 7 of them live in the caves on a four year contract after which time someone else gets the contract. I wonder how they make it sustainable – they probably don't I guess.
Here we had our first snorkelling dip. I thought I'd hop in to try it but didn't stay long as there were quite a lot of schools of little fish which didn't seem to mind swimming straight at you. After I'd seen a few tropical fish I thought I had enough and bailed out. Stu persevered and said it was amazing. He saw more fish than he did in the Great Barrier Reef, less coral though. Next stop was near a lagoon, out came the kayaks and we took off for a paddle around. I wish we could have had the camera here as this place was stunning, as beautiful if not more so than Halong Bay and definitely cleaner. More snorkelling for Stuart which was hilarious as I could actually see all the fish around him, they were so people-hungry – I am so glad I didn't get in the water there.
Thereafter we went to another part of Phi Phi Le – which is the south island – no-one lives there. This is where The Beach was filmed, on Maya Beach and that was where we were headed. It was a bit hairy for a minute actually, as you get turfed out in the sea and told to clamber up this wooden ropey thing while the tide is beating you. Everyone struggled slightly but we got there eventually. And, oh my, what a beach it is. We spent about an hour there enjoying the scenery, the sea and the sand and in fact, a game of tennis for me and Stu. Stunning.
Back on board and we headed around the bay and stopped, again, to my surprise. Here it was turtle time and a chance to snorkel and see the sea turtle. I didn't get in fast enough unfortunately and missed Mr Turtle, luckily Stu did see him, remarking he was small and slow, kinda like the dudes in Finding Nemo. I tried in vain for a good 20mins to spot one – and suspended all fear of the other fish but to no avail. I still hope to see one before we get home, but sadly, it's beginning to look unlikely. Back on board and it was fried rice for supper whilst watching the sunset, a perfect end to a perfect day spent with my lovely boyfriend.
I should mention we ate in this fantastic restaurant a couple of nights when we were on Phi Phi. Papaya has awesome, awesome Thai food with huge portions so bring an appetite. They are so nice in there and they love cats. One cat likes to sit in the bottom of the fridge washing himself, another likes to play dead on one of their tables. Apologies to non-cat-lovers but they were immensely cute.
So, that was Phi Phi, a fabulous place. We saw some pictures of the damage done during the Tsunami and couldn't hardly believe it was the same place. We couldn't help but think about the tsunami quite a bit, there are signs pointing toward higher ground and the evacuation route should it happen again. Around 2000 people died there as a result, now you would hardly know it happened. I can't recommend this place highly enough but be sure and spend more time on Phi Phi Le than we did if possible.
That's basically where the culture and education stops and the sunbathing, reading, drinking and lying about begins(in ernst).
Crossing the country to Koh Samui was our next leg; a boat, a truck, a bus, another bus, a boat and a car got us to where we were going eventually. It was a bit epic to say the least, even though in total it probably only took about 8 or 9 hours. Once we got off the first long bus trip we were told to sit conveniently enough in the bus company ticket office. We were there for about half an hour while they tried to convince people they were the only taxi company on the islands and try to sell them overpriced accommodation. Anyway, then they put us on this bus that must have been 60 years old. We were stuffed in like sardines, back packs galore. I thought we were only about 10mins from the port, turned out it was more like an hour and whaddya know but the ancient bus final broke down after coughing and spluttering smoke for 40 mins. So with half an hour left to our ferry time I was thinking oh great here we go again....fortunately enough this time they had the good sense to get someone to pick us up and as the port was only 10mins from where we broke down we managed to get there; the ferry delayed about 20mins but it was “plain sailing” after that thankfully.
Our guesthouse owner picked us up at the Port. Steve, an English guy who had been living there for the last 10 years or so. As it turned out we got upgraded to his best room which for about £18 a night was very nice and included a private sun deck and kitchen. His breakfasts were also glorious having imported all his produce, it was the best Wiltshire sausage I ever had!
We were staying about a 10 minute walk into Lamai beach which is your fairly run of the mill resort. And I hate to admit it folks but this is where things slow down and become really pretty boring for the reader. We basically spent 5 nights there and we ate, drank, slept, read and sunbathed. That was about it. We did spend 3 of the 5 nights in the pub watching sport due to the European Qualifiers and the all-Ireland hurling final. One night we also went to see more Muay Thai which was much better than our previous experience. We saw about 3 fights in this huge arena where there must have been 1000 locals and tourists crammed in. The fights were very professional; and there was money on the line for the winners so it was pretty entertaining. Some of the girls were so tough you wouldn't want to meet them down a dark lane, if you know what I mean.
The beach in Lamai is quite nice and they have the best street food we came across in all SE Asia. It's one 'street' of vendors that runs along side the thai boxing stadium. I cannot recommend this place highly enough and it's so, so cheap. Fresh meat and chicken skewers, curries, pad thai, pancakes, corn, indian food, pizza, you name it they had it. Awesome.
We saw many, many misspelled signs or just examples of very poor english translations, this one kept us entertained for a while, check no.28 on the menu.
In the space of about 10 minutes one night when we were walking home we saw 3 frogs, a big lizard, a rat and a dead snake at the side of the road. Pretty exciting stuff eh?
We shipped out of Chaulty Towers and got the boat to Koh Phangan, a straight forward 20mins thankfully. We were staying not far from the port at Thongsala at a place called Lime 'n' Soda. It was a great little place actually. Think holiday resort but budget so pool, restaurant, bar, beachside but cheap. It was really clean and the staff were very friendly and helpful so a good choice if you don't mind not being in the thick of the action.
There's not an awful lot to do in Thongsala; they do have another great street food market, where I think we actually ate every day.
One of the reasons we had made out way to Koh Phangan was of course to see ourselves off our road trip in style and have a bit of a blow-out at the Full Moon Party. The first 3 days we arrived it was pretty overcast so on the Sunday we headed for the pub to watch the rugby. 9 hours, 6 new friends and way too many drinks later we stumbled home. Stuart nursed the mother of all hangovers the following day; but felt somewhat better when we got back on it at about 7pm for our pre-full moon drinks.
We ended up meeting up with some of the gang we'd met the day before. We left the resort around 10.30pm and got a taxi the 7 or 8 km to Haad Rin. We were pretty well on the booze at this stage so after a good ol' sing song in the truck, the first purchase for everyone was body paint followed by a bucket. Some merriment followed which involved smearing of paint and attempts at elegance, which was never achieved as far as I can recall. Unfortunately, Stuart got a little over zealous and was actually steaming by 1am. This would echo a similar situation he found himself in 8 years earlier when he attended the Full Moon with his mates. However, I'm happy to say there was no medical issues this time he managed to just drink water for a few hours and sort himself out. So we danced and partied like the best of them.
I wasn't blown away by it to be honest, it's pretty commercial and some of the Djs weren't great. In fact I would say there were better Djs on earlier in the night. We finally dragged ourselves away at 5am, pretty early compared to some tales we heard the next day. No time for a hangover; the sun was splitting the stones and we were fast running out of sunbathing time. And that was pretty much Koh Phangan.
We got a return ferry to Koh Samui and headed to the airport, which by the way is the coolest little airport I've ever seen. Most of it is outside and it's very chic. A tip to fellow travellers, as there are so many flights to Bangkok you can actually go on standy-by for an earlier flight if you happened to get there with plenty of time to spare. We were unlucky but I think that was because it was still immediately post a full moon but worth bearing in mind to save yourself a few hours, just go to see the ladies at the Customer Service desk.
We flew to Bangkok and got a taxi to Rambuttri road, which is parallel to Khao San Road, we stayed in Sakul House, which is a great little hotel with a very good breakfast. It was a bit more expensive than where we had been staying but as it was our last couple of nights Stu decided as a birthday treat for my impending 30 we'd splash out a little. We were pretty much straight out the door and headed to Pat Pong night market. A very worthwhile venture as we managed to do quite a bit of our shopping.
That night we met up with Luke and Niamh, our buddies from tubing a few weeks back. A few drinks basically descended into a street party somehow. It was a good ole night but we were a bit worse for aware AGAIN on Thursday. Poor Luke and Niamh were actually flying that night, hope it was too bad lads!
When we finally dragged ourselves out of our nice air conditioned room the next day, we headed to shopping mall central around Sukumvit. We spent a few hours there picking up a few more bits and pieces and then collapsed into a tuk-tuk for the return journey. The tuk-tuk drivers are as mad as ever but thankfully none have ripped us off this time. We had some nice street food and spent the evening packing and chilling, a nice final night away.
Our last day consisted of an hour in the sun, some more shopping and some of the rugby. Our final port of call was a really good massage/beauty salon on Rambuttri road called Shewa Salon. We both had a massage and I got my nails done and a super job by all, we had all parts cracked thai style which I think will be advantageous on the long haul flight tonight.
As I write we're sitting in our hotel lobby before our impending departure. It's so strange, as it's just been to two of us for so long and from tomorrow we'll start seeing friends and family again. However, we did meet some really great people along the road, so here's to you guys and thanks for sharing some of the fun of our trip with us.
I should also say thanks to everyone at home who helped us get away, thank you, we couldn't have done it without you all. Also, thanks to everyone who read this blog, we're really glad we decided to write it, God knows I'm forgetting little bits and pieces from the start of the trip already so it will be invaluable to have it in years to come. Plus it was the only discipline we had for the whole trip.
I'm not sure what else to say, hopefully we'll be home safe and sound tomorrow. I don't know if there's another huge trip in us but maybe we'll have little ones we can tell you about too in the future.
Travelling isn't necessarily for everyone, however if the opportunity presents itself we say go for it. Its hard to explain how it affects you, but for us, most of all it gives you the leg room to think about things more. Whether that's all the new and interesting things you are encountering or just about life in general which, we think, in turn shapes your thoughts. You get away from the daily grind which we so easily get bogged down by(and usually don't even realise it). It's yoga for me when we go home I think – and no, I haven't turned into a hippy!
Travelling can be testing sometimes, when you on your 15th dodgy bus of the week, you've said goodbye to yet another new friend and the skype isn't working so no chatting to home for a few days...and don't get us started on the wild animals, murderous insects, delhi bellys and the toilets.
But y'know what it was worth every discomfort and I would do it all again tomorrow.
We don't really know specifically what we went in search of but for sure we found more than we could ever have dreamed of.
Kelly and Stuart
p.s we've been home 2 weeks now and all is well, our first day back at work tomorrow. We'll try not to day dream too much.
Koh Phi Phi
Natacha Hotel - 9/10 - small with no facilities but lovely staff and right neat the pier.
Sunset Tour - The Original - 9.5/10 - a fantastic day out that would benefit from skipping Monkey Island and spending more time on 'The Beach'
Papaya - 10/10 - delicious, huge portions and kitty carry-on.
Paddy's - 9/10 - a very tasty menu with free salad bar and a huge selection of cocktails.
Cosmic - 8/10 - another good food joint.
Lomprayah Ferry/Bus - 6/10 - okay and cheap but be prepared for a rubbish latter bus journey.
Chaulty Towers - 8/10 - a great wee spot, a bit of a walk from town but you can get a lift when you need, awesome breakfast.
The Shamrock - 8/10 - a nice bar but a little pricey when the music was on(drinks are more expensive then) and the band played the same set every night which got extremely tedious.
Street Food - 10/10 - can't beat it.
Muay Thai night at the girlie bars - 9/10 - good atmosphere.
Lime 'n' Soda - 8/10 - a great wee spot but the rooms are small and we encountered a few cockroaches, also the food was pretty poor.
My Wok and Me - 10/10 an awesome restaurant around the corner from Lime 'n' Soda, so tasty and so cheap, they also run a cookery school on site.
Food Factory - 10/10 - the best place in town for watching sport and the owner is a ticket, ask to see his tattoos, very original.
Street Food - 9/10 not as good as Koh Samui but still dang good.
Sakul House, Rambuttri Rd - 9/10 a great little place, they even accomodated us with a late breakfast one morning and let us use the shower facilities after we had checked out, worth the few extra bucks for the location and rooftop terrace.
Khao San Rd - you have to check this place out, we went to a few different bars, none of which I remember the name of but it's all crazy and you'll meet loads of people, once or twice is probably enough.
Patong Market - 8/10 - great for t-shirts, souvenirs and bags - loads of bags.